A Bowie State University junior has filed a $3 million lawsuit against the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for injuries he allegedly suffered while being hazed as a pledge.
Kevin Hayes also alleges he was “ostracized and bullied” by members of the fraternity after they saw photos of his injuries saved on his phone and told him to delete the images.
But Hayes, who pledged the fraternity’s Eta Zeta chapter in the fall of 2013, has remained a member because he wants to “change things from the inside,” according to his lawyer.
“He’s sad that he had to do it [file the lawsuit] but knows it was the right thing to do,” said Jimmy A. Bell, an Upper Marlboro solo practitioner. “Hazing is a crime.”
Officials from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s national headquarters in Baltimore did not respond to messages seeking comment. Founded in 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha was the first Greek-letter fraternity for black students and has 353 chapters at colleges and universities across the country, including nine in Maryland.
On its website, the fraternity states it “strictly prohibits hazing in any form, whether physical or mental as a term or condition of membership in the organization.” Alpha Phi Alpha’s anti-hazing statement also notes that anyone who commits hazing “is individually and personally liable to the victim and can be subject to a lawsuit for monetary damages” in addition to facing “severe disciplinary action by the Fraternity.”
Bowie State is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, filed Monday in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.
Hayes is an aspiring lawyer who was elected freshman class president at Bowie State and currently is executive member at-large for the Student Government Association, according to the lawsuit. He wanted to join Alpha Phi Alpha when he learned “many of the men he came to admire were members,” including Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson, according to the lawsuit.
As a pledge, Hayes claims he was subjected to punches, slaps, body slams and hits from a paddle during all-night initiation sessions, the lawsuit states. Pledges learned chapter and fraternity information and were “punished” if the information was not recited correctly, the lawsuit states. Some fraternity brothers who performed the beatings wore masks to conceal their identities, the lawsuit states.
“It’s criminal, sadistic behavior,” said Bell, who has known Hayes since Hayes was a boy.
The pledges also were prohibited from telling others what they had been through during the initiation sessions “because that would be called ‘snitching,'” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses Alpha Phi Alpha of violating Maryland’s anti-hazing law. Hayes seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages for battery, false imprisonment and gross negligence.
The case is Kevin Hayes v. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., et al., CAL14-36637.